NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Apple just announced the release of its iWallet mobile wallet service, and it's allegedly coming out by the fourth quarter of 2012. But what will it look like, and what can consumers expect to get out of the iWallet?
Apple has a knack for turning a cultural trend and turning it into a device that millions of consumers come to find they can’t live without.
It happened with the MacBook, iTunes, the iPhone and, more recently, the iPad (and many technology analysts expect the same thing to happen with Apple TV).
Now there’s a new technology to test that theory – the iWallet. Steve Jobs is gone, but Apple executives still know a great opportunity when they see one.
According to a new study from the Federal Reserve, a staggering 87% of the U.S. adult population has a mobile phone, and 44% of those phones are Internet-enabled.
Furthermore, the Federal Reserve says that 21% of smartphone users are already using mobile technology and 11% more say they will in 2012.
That translates into a sizeable mobile wallet market for Apple, and one that has nowhere near hit critical mass.
So can the iWallet turn the tide for Apple?
We’re sure going to find out. On March 6, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave the iWallet the green light for commercial sale in the U.S.
The website PatentlyApple.com describes the iWallet as a digital financial services platform that gives consumers control over all of their primary financial accounts directly from their iPhones.
The site says the iWallet should be included in the iPhone 5 rollout, which is expected by the fourth quarter of 2012, although Apple has issued no release date.
What will the iWallet offer consumers when it does hit the streets? Here are three likely components:
Real-time, secure credit card transactions. Leaks on the iWallet say the technology is especially focused on credit cards, specifically card transactions. Apple reportedly has a new technology that allows secure credit card transactions with or without the cardholder being present. Remote card transactions have been something of a bugaboo in mobile wallet technology, from a security point of view. Expect the iWallet to tackle the problem head on.
“Plastic” profiles. The iWallet will also have streamlined credit card profiles that users can easily pull up on their iPhones. The consumer actually sees a full-screen-size image of their credit card, and can open up the card by tapping on the image and accessing their credit card “profile”. In the profile, can communicate directly with their bank, set alerts and payment dates, and view monthly statements. Other mobile technologies offer most of these services, but Apple wants to gives it ubiquitous (some say “elegant”) user experience in organizing and accessing credit card data from the iPhone.
Emphasis on parental controls. With the growing number of high-school and college-aged kids using smartphones, opening bank accounts and using credit cards, the iWallet will also target tighter parental controls (the Federal Reserves says that 49% of the 18- to 24-year-olds included in its survey had a smartphone). Apple will allow parents to set the rules on how kids can use their digital credit cards via the iPhone. That may include setting spending limits or redlining stores or businesses that parents don’t want their children using. If the child spends too much, or tries to use the credit card to buy a bong or pills from a generic pharmacy, Mom and Dad are immediately notified and the transaction stopped.
Apple enthusiasts have just started peeling the lid off the new iWallet technology, and no doubt, more details are imminent. But for now, consumers know that Apple is joining the mobile wallet revolution, with the usual set of loaded expectations that Apple brings to any new market it enters.